Syspeace is a HIPS (Host Intrusion Prevention System) that monitors failed logins attempts on for instance Remote Desktop Servers, Exchange Server, SQL Servers, Winlogon events on Windows Servers from Windows Server 2003 and more and blocks, tracks and reports the attacker based on customazible rules
Sometimes though, the event (Eventid 4625 or eventid 529 and a few other security events we monitor) doesn’t actually contain the source IP address thus leaving Syspeace with nothing to block.
If there’s no IP address to block, it can’t be put into to the Windows Frewall Syspeace rules and the bruteforce attack can continue.
This essentially happens when you switch from RDP layer security to using a certificate.
An article on Stackoverflow might be pointing to a solution though
Here’s a warning though!
If you’re using the RD WEB also to publish Remote Resources.
For some reason , your MAC OS clients will stop recieving Remote Resources since it seems to run on NTLM version 1 (and I would guess Android and XP too )
Also scanners may stop working locally if they need to write files to a newtorks share
I tried a lab with this and when seting the – Network security: Restrict NTLM: Incoming NTLM traffic — Deny all accounts , the remote resources can’t be refreshed.
There are a few warnings when changing this setting and you should investigate if there are applications or services in your server environment that are dependent on LM or NTLM (v1).
I’ve changed the setting on a number of servers and haven’t seen anything stop working but still you should investigate before changing.
An interesting support case came to our attention recently.
A customer claimed that Syspeace wouldn’t block according to the rules.
The bruteforce attacks would continue , even after they should have been blocked.
We checked the ususal culprits (verify that the .Net is fully patched, that the customer is running the latest Syspeace version, verify that logging is enabled and that the firewall is turned on )
The rules were added as expected in the firewall but they didn’t have any effect.
After a lot of troubleshooting the root-cause was found.
The customers server did indeed have the firewall enabled but only in one of the firewall profiles (public, private, domain) and unfortuantely, the network used was not the one the firewall was enabled for, hence, nothing was blocked as expected. The rules were added but did not take effect in the expected amount of time
So, as a general troubleshooting tip , check how your firewall is enabled and verify that it indeed is the correct network profile in there, or, enable the firewall for all three profiles.
The usual troubleshooting tips we give are described in the manual in the troubleshooting section
1. Make sure you’ve enabled the firewall (as described in Firewall), firewall enabled, prefferably on all profiles.
2. Make sure you’ve enabled the auditing (as described in Windows login detection prerequisites).
3. Verify that the server can reach https://s.syspeace.com/ping . (You should see a message saying Hello from Stockholm. and the local time of the server and recommended Syspeace version)
4. In some instances, when running Terminal Server or Remote Desktop Services there’s actually the scenario where the Windows server itself fails to obtain the source IP address of the login attempt (you can verify this by checking the Windows event log and look for Source Network Address: ) Sometimes, that entry is empty, thus disabling Syspeace from actually having anything to block. Syspeace will attempt to corroborate the IP address from some other logs. If it doesn’t find any, there is not much that Syspeace can do.
7. Some methods of Windows authentication actually attempts to log in several times. Two failures may be part of one log in attempt. Syspeace has no way of knowing how many attempts were intended and has to work with the actual failures. Due to counting failures instead of attempts, rules may be triggered seemingly ahead of time.
8. One way of quickly verifying functionality is to use a workstation (not whitelisted) and attack your server with the net use command from the command prompt. After the number of tries defined in the current rules, the workstation should be blocked from communicating with the server. Example of the command: net use * \server name or server IP addressanyshare /user:syspeacetester ”anypassword”
9. If you want to submit logs to us, start Syspeace, go to Management → System settings, enable logging and start the service. The log file is created in a subfolder of the Syspeace installation folder.
10. When submitting logs,
Please create a .zip file of the logfiles, include any relevant information from Windows Eventlogs (application, system and security and when applicapble, the Syspeace eventlog ) and also create a .Zip-file of the database and email them directly to the devteam . The email address can be found in the manual
11. If your server doesn’t pick up the source IP address in your eventlog , please have a look a this blog article
12. If your database has grown above the size limit of 4 GB, in the current version ( 2.5.2) you will have to manually delete the database and set up your Syspeace again. in the upcoming version this has been fixed.
How to block an intrusion attack against Windows Servers for free
If your server or datacenter is targeted by a brute force attack a.k.a dicttionary attacks , it might be hard to figure out how to quickly make it stop.
If the attack is from a single IP address you’d probably block it in your external firewall or the Windows Server firewall and after that start tracking and reporting the attack to see if needs following up.
However, if the attacks is triggered from hundreds or even thousands of IP addresses, it will become basically impossible to block all of them in the firewall so you need something to help you automate the task.
Fully functional, free trial for bruteforce prevention
Since Syspeace has a fully functional trial for 30 days, you can simply download it here ,install, regsiter with a valid mail address, enter the licensekey into the Syspeace GUI and the attack will be automatically handled (blocked, tracked and reported) as soon as the Syspeace service starts up.
In essence, the attack will be blocked within minutes from even connecting to your server.
The entire process of downloading, installing and registering ususally only takes a few minutes and since Syspeace is a Windows service it will also automatically start if the server is rebooted.
If the attack is triggered to use just a few login attempts per attacking IP address and for a longer period of time in between attempts, I’d suggest you change te default rule to monitor for failed logins for a longer triggerwindow , for example 4 days so you’d also automatically detect hacking attempts that are trying to stay under the radar for countermeasure such as Syspeace.
The Syspeace Global BlackList
Since Syspeace has already blocked over 3.6 Million attacks worldwide , we’ve also got a Global Blacklist that is automatically downloaded to all other Syspeace clients.
This means that if an IP address has been deemed a repeat offender (meaning that it has attacked X number of Syspeace customers and Y number of servers within Z amount of tme), the attackers IP address is quite likely to already be in the GBL and therefore it will be automatically blacklisted on all Syspeace-installations, thus making it preemptively blocked.
Syspeace does not simmply disable the login for the attacker, it completely blocks the attacker on all ports from communicating with your server so if you’ve got otther services also running on the server (such as an FTP or SQL Server) the attacker will not be able to reach any if those services either. The lockdown is on all TCP ports.
More Syspeace features, supported Windows Server editions and other services such as Exchange Server, Terminal Server, SQL Server …
You will also get tracking and reporting included immediately for future reference or forensics.
Syspeace supports Windows Server editions from Windows 2003 and upwards, including the Small Business Server editions. It also supports Terminal Server (RDS) and RemoteAPP and RDWeb, Microsoft Exchange Serevr including the webmail (OWA) , Citrix, Sharepoint,
SQL Server and we’ve also released public APIs to use with various weblogins. All of this is included in Syspeace. Out of the box.
We’ve got a IIS FTP server detector in beta and also a FileZilla FTP Server detector and we’re constantly developing new detectors for various server software.
Download and try out Syspeace completely free
Even if you’re not being attacked by a large brute force attack right now, you can still download the trial and have Syspeace handle attacks for you in the background. Who knows, there could be more invalid login attemtpts than you think, such as disabled or removed users that have left the company or very subtle, slow dictioanry attacks going on in the background that actaully might be quite tricky to spot if your not constantly monitoring logfles.
On this blog, http://syspeace.wordpress.com ,we’ve written a lot of blog articles on how Syspeace works and a lot of other articles regarding securing your servers that we hope you’ll find useful.
Syspeace automatically blocks attacks that occur according to the rules.
The default rule is that if an intruder fails to login more than 5 times within 30 minutes, the intruders IP address is blocked, tracked and reported for 2 hours and simply is denied any access to the server.
A new trend though has emerged and that is for bruteforce attackers to ”slowgrind” through servers, trying to stay ”under the radar” really from IDS/IPS HIPS/HIDS such as Syspeace.
They’ve got thousands and thousands of computers at their disposal so they’ll basically just try a few times at each server and then move on to next one in the IP range or geographical location hoping not to trigger any alarms or hacker countermeasures in place.
An easy way to battle this is actually simply to change the default rule in Syspeace from the time windows of 30 minutes to for example 5 days.
This way , I’m pretty sure you’ll see there are quite a few attackers that only tried 2 or three times a couple of days ago and they’re back again but still only trying only a few times.
With the ”5 day” windows, you’ll catch and block those attacks too.
Here’s actually a brilliant example of an attack blocked, using a 4 day window.
Blocked address 22.214.171.124() [China] 2014-08-11 15:06:00
Rule used (Winlogon):
Name: Catch All Login
Trigger window: 4.00:30:00
Lockout time: 02:00:00
Previous observations of this IP address:
2014-08-11 13:05:51 aksabadministrator
2014-08-10 22:06:48 aksabadministrator
2014-08-10 06:39:12 aksabadministrator
2014-08-09 15:39:52 aksabadministrator
2014-08-09 00:32:05 aksabadministrator
Syspeace has blocked more than 3 285 300 intrusion attempts against Windows Servers worldwide so far.
What is a brute force attack or dictionary attack really and how would Syspeace help?
Essentially it is someone who is trying to guess the right combination of username and password to gain access into your serveers for example a Microsoft Exchange Serve and the OWA (Outlook Web Access), Terminal Server/RDS (Remote Desktop Server), Sharepoint, SQL Server, Citrix and so on.
The attacker uses automated software to try to guess the right combination to be able to login and steal data or to elevate their rights. One attack can render in thousands of login attempts, it can go on for hours or days and it is a heavy load for the server to handle that in regards of CPU, RAM, network traffic and so on.
Each login request has to validated and checked if it is legitimate or not.
A comparison of a brute force attack and the real world be be this (this is an excerpt from the Syspeace website)
”Imagine that your company has a physical facility. If someone repeatedly tries to gain access with a fake key or invalid key card, you would expect that your security guards would notice and not let the intruder through”
Aren’t there builtin protection into Windows Server against these attacks ?
In short. No.
The only built in mechanisms in Windows Servers are basically the ability to enforce strong passwords and to enable account lockout.
To enable strong passwords is a good thing, even if you’re running an intrusion prevention software for Windows like Syspeace.
If you have easy-to-guess passwords, it won’t really matter what protection you’re sunning since if a login is valid, no software would block it anyway. A valid username and password is always a valid login. So, please ensure you require users to use strong and complex passwords and allow for Syspeace to capture the attack.
The second method , ie. account lockout, might actaully do you more harm than good and here’s why.
If the system you’re protecting is for instance an Exchange Server or an RDS Server and it is probably facing he Intenet to provide service for your users or customers. To figure out a username doesn’t have to be that complicated fo an attacker. They’ll first try to understand the email policy naming convention, scavenge the Internet for metadata and the simply start trying to login using the email address as the username (since this is quite often a valid login name) and try guess to guess the password.
If you’ve enabled the Account Lockout Policy the affected users accounts will be constantly locked since the attacker will automate the attack and try thousands of time for each user they know are in the system.
If you’ve been hit with an attack and it is just from a single IP address, you’d probably just block it in the Windows Firewall (or the external firewall) and unlock the affected users accounts and that’s it. Hopefully you’d also report it.
Now, what if the attack is actually done from hundreds or thousands of computers at the same time ? Blocking them manually isn’t really an option is it ?
One simple and quick solution is to download the fully functional trial of Syspeace , install it and have Syspeace block, track and report the attack.
How can Syspeace help as an Intrusion Prevention for Windows Servers and do I set it up?
The idea behind Syspeace is the ease of use and independence from other software and appliances and also not to enforce a change in your network or infrastructure.
Some systems require you to change your entire infrastructure and put for instance a high performing proxy appliance or server in front of the network. Other systems are bundled with antivruses and other systems, requiring you use consultants and experts to get the systems running.
Syspeace is simply installed on the servers you want to protect. The installation process takes about 4-5 minutes maximum and that’s it. You’re done. The server is protected against brute force attacks. Out of the box.
Th Syspeace GUI is easy to understand and easy to manage. You don’t have to be a security expert to manage Syspeace.
If you want to move a Syspeace license from one server to antoher , that’s also easily done thanks to the floating licensing model within Syspeace. The length of the license can also vary so you’re not forced into buying a 1 year license if you don’t want to . You can a license fo 1 month. or 3 months, Whatever suits your needs.
The pricing of Syspeace is more or less equivavlent to an antivirus and it is a per-server based licensing so it’s not based up on the number of users you’re servicing. 1 license, 1 server. That’s it.
These are some of the features included in Syspeace
Secure login attempts on Windows server
The Windows server is secured by watching the result of the Logon process. If multiple logon attempts fails, actions can be taken. This works on Windows Server 2003 and on and is also automatically protection for Remote Desktop Services, Sharepoint, Exchange OWA, Citrix and basically anthing that renders an eventid of 4635 or eventid 529 (we do monitor more events also)
Secure login to Exchange Serevr SMTP connectors
The Exchange server is usually exposed by the OWA web site that is a part of Exchange. Syspeace not only protects the OWA but also logon attempts made by connectors.
Secure login to SQL Server
Many SQL-server installations expose a logon-possibility either by AD-integration or by logon by using SQL Authentication. Syspeace protects both methods
Multiple customizable rules
Syspeace can be tailored to fit your specific needs by customizing the rule-base. The rules are executed in real-time on all successful and unsuccessful logon attempts and appropriate measures are taken.
Send mail when a block is done
Whenever a block (rule) is entered in the firewall, you have the option to be notified by mail.
Send daily mail with aggregated intrusion information both as plain text and attached CSV file
Each day, there is a summary created that you can have mailed to you or the people that you see will benefit from it.
Send weekly mail with aggregated intrusion information both as plain text and attached CSV file
If the daily summary is too granular, a weekly summary is also available in the same way.
Uses local whitelist
Some computers should never be blocked in your environment. These computers can be listed in a local Whitelist so that Syspeace will never block these IP addresses.
Uses local blacklist
The local blacklist is a opportunity to force a block to a specific set of computers that you never want to connect to your server.
Uses global blacklist
Syspeace comes with a Global Blacklist. This list is maintained by Syspeace central servers and distributed once a day to your Syspeace installation. The Global Blacklist contains computers that have tried to break the security on many other sites that run Syspeace.
Searchable log of login/intrusion attempts
Syspeace have the ability to in a very easy way present information about who is attacking you and when it happened. The data is searchable, aggregated and presented in a matter of a few simple clicks.
View information on why a block was made
A block may be initiated from many different sources. Together with the block is also information stored about the origin. It is always possible to back track a block.
Access report to quickly find related information in the attempt log
The Access report takes the reporting to a new level. Here, it is possible to further aggregate and investigate what happens to your server.
Updates are free and new features are included. We’ve also released the ability write your own Syspeace Detectors thurough the Syspeace API to protect for instance a webapplication or write a special detector for your Windows applications.
Who should use Syspeace then ?
Syspeace isn’t targeted at any special types of environments or companies, we believe that Syspeace is a natural part to use for any server administrator, regardless of if you’re a Cloud Service provider or managing you own servers or if you’re an outsourcing company, hosting company or even if the servers are physical or virtual.
Syspeace can help in any scenario so the short answer is, any system admininstrator managing a Windows Server from Windows Server 2003 and on really.
It is not a ”silver bullet” for security but a piece of the security puzzle we believ you’ll need to ensure the protection of your users or customers and it solves a problem easily that no one hasn’t really been able to handle earlier.
If yuu’re up for reading more about intrusion prevention for Windows Servers, please have a look at the earlier articles written here on this blog or have simply go to the Syspeace website for more information and download a trial.
Syspeace – Host Intrusion Prevention Software on an external Windows Server VPS in the Cloud
There are many variations of IaaS / PaaS / Cloud services.
Some are public clouds and some are hybrids and some are private.
There’s also the possibility rent an external VPS and use as a server at quite a few providers nowadays.
The IaaS/PaaS (Infrastracture as a Service/ Platform as a Service) provider gives you acces to a virtual server designed as to your needs when it comes to RAM and storage. Basically, it’s usually an empty server with an operating system.
Running IT solutions on an external VPS decreases the need for hardware investements but there are still things you need to consider and you need to manage your server the same way you would with any physical server i terms of monitoring security and tha availability of services and applications.
Logically, the server is reachable from the Internet which will make it a target.
Anything that is reachable will be targeted for intrusion attempts. The responsibility for Iaas/PaaS provider is simply to provide you with the Hypervisor needed to host you operating system and the rest is up to you. You install the applications, webservers and everything just as you would with a normal physical server.
Some aware Iaas/PaaS/Cloud service provders do have some kind of Appshop/Control panel where you can get preconfigured software such as an antivirus or even Syspeace for intrusion prevention but it’s not that common.
Remember that your VPS shares ”IP-space” with other customers when it comes to the network at your provider and you have absolutely no idea of what your ”neighbors” are doing and if they’re the slightest security aware.
They may hve been hacked without you knowing it (or them either for that matter) and they could have the IP address right next to you and their server could be used for instance for portscanning or hacking attempts against your VPS (if seen this quite a few times now).
Your IaaS/PaaS provider usually wouldn’t know since it’s not their responsibility. Their role is simply to provide you and their other customers with a VPS. Nothing more. No security monitoring, no antivirus, no application / services monitoring
In case of a larger DDoS attack, they probobaly have ways to handle them if it concerns their entire network and affects a lot of their customers but when it comes to attacks speciafically targetet at your VPS and your users on it, it’s a bit trickier.
Imagine the scenario you’ve set up a server, you got your users set up, installed your applications and services and it’s up and running. Now, rermember that there’s no connection nbetween you userdatabase and login mechanisms locally on the VPS and your IaaS/PaaS systems so they’ll actually never even get any alarms if some is trying to brute force your server or your webapplication. They will be alerted in case of a large DDoS attack against their entire netowrk but they will not be alerted in cases of a bruteforce attack targetetd against your VPS.
So, in short, it’s all up to you. There’s no differnce apart from your not running the server in your own datacenter or at a hosting company.
Protecting your Windows Server, Exchange, Terminal Server / RDS, Sharepoint, SQL Server, Citrix and more from intrusion attempts
If your running a Windows server as a VPS you need to set up Syspeace to automatically handle intrusion attempts and have them blocked, tracked and reported againts the Syspeace Global Blacklist.
You also need to secure the server in other ways such as an antivirus, have your services monitored, you webapplication login form secured both from malicios code and from brute force logins (this is also wher Syspeace comes into play since there are plugins available for various webplatforms to use against bruteforce attacks)
Syspeace is an automated Host Intrusion Prevention System (also called a HIPS) and is targeted to protect Windows servers, Exchange and OWA , Sharepoint, Terminal Server / RDS and the RDWEB login, Citrix , SQL Server and more from bruteforce / dictionary attacks. . It is easy to install, and easy to manage and you’ll set it up in a couple of minutes and you’re protected. Instantly.
As I’m writing this, Syspeace has succesfully blocked, tracked and reported over 2 921 200 (2.9 Million) brute force and dictionary attacks against Windows servers worldwide.
Securing your Windows Server with a baseline security
In short, to have an acceptable baseline security for any Windows server you need to think all of the things below in this list.
Sadly enough, even if you follow all of these steps, you’re still not secured forever and ever. There’s no such thing as absolute security. That’s just the way it is but you might use this as some kind of checklist and also the links provided in this post.
Securing Windows Serves with an acceptable baseline security
1. Make sure all of your software is updated with all security patches. This includes the Windows operating system but also Adobe, Java,Office and any software really. This reduces the risk for so called 0day attacks or your server being compromised by software bugs.
2. Make sure you have a good and not too resource intensive antivirus running on everything. Personally I’m a fan of F Secure PSB for servers and workstations for lots of reasons. It’s not just a pretty logo.
3. Verify you have thought your file and directory access structure and that users and groups are only allowed to use and see what they’re supposed to. Setting file permissions is a very powerful tool to secure your server and crucial.
4. Always make sure to read best practices for securing applications and servers and Google for other ideas also. No manual is the entire gospel.
5. Enable logging. If you don’t know what’s happeing, you can’t really react to it can you ? It also makes any troubleshooting hopeless in restrospect.
8. If your server has any monitoring agents from the manufacturer such as HP Server Agents, then install them and set them up with notifications for any hardware events to be prepared.
9. User Group Policies. It’s an extermely powerful tool once you start using it and it will make you day to day operations much easier.
10. If your server is reachable from the Internet, use valifd SSL certificates. They’re not that expensive and any communications should be encrypted and secured as fa as we’re able. Yes, think Mr. Snowden.Think NSA.
11. Disable any unused services and network protocols. They can be a point of entry and for the unused network protocols, you bascially fill your local network with useless chatter that comsume bandwidth. This also goes for workstations and printers and so on.
14. Backups! Backups! and again. BACKUPS!!
Make sure you have good backups (and test them at least once a year for a complete disaster revovery scenario) and make sure you have multiple generations of them in case any of them is corrupted, preferrably stored offsite in some manner in case of a fire, theft or anything really.
For day to day operations and generation management I highly recommend using the builtin VSS snapshot method but never ever have it instead of backups.
You can also use the built in Windows Server backup for DR as described here http://jufflan.wordpress.com/2013/07/15/using-windows-server-backup-20082008-r2-for-a-disaster-recovery-from-a-network-share/